It's a ... what?
It's nearly 18 months later, and the Dukes County Charter Study Commission is about to deliver its baby. The gestation period has been marked by distinguished and extensive research and exhausting, even withering, discussion. But, despite all the meetings, the research, and the talk, the offspring is likely to resemble in most respects the product - with which we suffer today - conceived by the 1992 charter study group. This will be a baby we'll not expect too much of and have to watch every minute.
The 1992 group set out to make change, and led by the irresistible Ed Logue, they did just that. The three-person county commission that existed pre-Logue became a seven-member commission with a paid, professional county manager. It was an apparatus designed to take on larger, regional tasks that might defy the efforts of one or two towns but flourish under the county's broad, well-run political mechanism. It is not the fault of the estimable Mr. Logue, nor of his fellow commissioners, that their county conception was hobbled from birth.
And it is not the case, as some of the current commissioners have chosen to believe, that the county commissioners' and their chosen managers' collectively dismal performance since 1992 has sabotaged the charter structure adopted 15 years ago. The Logue-led commission struck an imaginative blow for government that would make sense, get things done, and attract the confident allegiance of the independent towns. That charter study was a study in leadership in action. Things didn't pan out because the charter that the 1992 commission recommended and that the voters adopted did not match the aspirations of the varied constituencies of the seven county towns. The towns were rich and independent-minded then, and they are even more so today, so it is even less likely that the new recommendation for changes in county government will breath life into the county carcass.
The current charter study commission's early choices - that abolishing county government is off the table entirely, and that no custom-designed county government would be attempted - neutered the commission's effort. Add to these the tentative conclusions that the seven-member commission will be retained, but that the paid professional manager will be jettisoned, and we have an outcome that demonstrates no leadership and no imagination. Then, by casting off professional management, the study commission members abandon all hope that the county could take on and accomplish efficiently any chores it might be able to persuade the towns to cede it. Finally, resorting to a non-binding suggestion that the county form a toothless municipal advisory council ignores the paucity of capable Islanders willing to run for county office. Thus, this plum tuckered out charter study commission appears ready to content itself with a near duplicate of the apparatus currently responsible for the estrangement between the towns and the county.
It looks like a win-win for the same old, same old, or maybe worse.